Air Atlanta Icelandic has lost the permit to transport weapons onboard its planes from the Icelandic government as accusations spread that the carrier shipped arms to Saudi Arabia, from where they might then have been further distributed to Syria and Yemen, Icelandàs RÚV TV channel has reported.
At the end of February, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project carried out an investigation following which it accused the cargo and ACMI/charter specialist of ferrying weapons from Serbia, Bulgaria, and Slovakia to Saudi Arabia.
Air Atlanta Icelandic has already informed customers that it would temporarily stop all weapons shipments as its permit is under review by the Icelandic authorities. However, the carrier has underlined in a statement that such loads constitute a negligible part of the company’s business.
“The company flew only six flights transporting weapons in 2017. The fleet operated a total of 6,672 flights last year, so the aforementioned gun transports concerned only 0.09% of the company’s flights,” CEO Hannes Hilmarsson has said.
The carrier has also stated it intends to fully cooperate with the authorities and adhere to the Icelandic law in every respect.
RÚV had earlier reported that Air Atlanta Icelandic’s permit allowed for a total of 25 flights with gun shipments on board. The carrier was authorised to transport weapons including 2,000 personal rocket launchers (bazookas), 850,000 units of ammunition of different types, 850 machine guns, 750 mortar shells, and over 170,000 landmines.
Arms exports to both Syria and Yemen are banned by the United Nations due to ongoing human rights violations in both war-torn countries. On top of the broad international commitments, more specific Icelandic laws also ban such transports.
The situation prompted calls for a review of weapons transport licence granting procedures, as well as for a stricter overview of carriers operating in the niche. However, the Icelandic Transport Ministry has pointed out it is difficult for it to trace what happens with the weapons delivered to Saudi Arabia, thus it is difficult to prove that the transports indeed contributed to the breach of the UN embargo.
According to the ch-aviation fleets module, Air Atlanta Icelandic currently operates seven B747-400s and a total of six B747-400(F)s in various sub-types. The carrier is partnered with Saudia for which it operates a number of routes, including passenger Hajj services out of each of Jeddah and Madinah to Algeria, Indonesia, and Tunisia, as well as cargo routes mostly out of Riyadh and Dammam to Europe.